Just Friends

Writing doesn’t help me to evaluate or figure out my problems. You’d think it would, since I’m training to be a journalist and all, but really that’s not the case. I’ve known this since I started writing about my life ten years ago, when I kept a diary full of all the things that were bothering me. But it didn’t stop me from attempting to silence my thoughts with a pen and paper again last week.

Here in the University of Limerick, we have what’s known as the Living Bridge, I lived right beside it last year. The seats along the side are severely uncomfortable and often soaking wet, but at night time it lights up in a rainbow of colours. There’s something about sitting on that bridge that always manages to calm me down, and clear my head, I spent a lot of time there last year. I think it’s the sound of the water, it reminds me of home.

I hadn’t been there for a while. In fact, I hadn’t been there since this time last year. But last week I felt the urge to go back, I thought I needed something. I thought maybe it was space or fresh air, but I really wasn’t sure. I just felt like sitting there might help me feel better. Unfortunately for me though, it didn’t. This event ended in me scribbling down my thoughts on a piece of paper, ripping it out of my diary and throwing it in a ball on the floor. However I proceeded to pick this piece of paper up; if anyone read what I’d written they’d probably laugh hysterically and plus, I’m not a litter bug.

The realisation that came over me that day is that for once in my life, I’m not looking for a solution to my problem; I’m trying to figure out how to best deal with the solution I’ve been given. As a journalist, you’re trained to always ask more questions, to seek better answers, to always look for more. On top of that, my anxiety always has me exploring other avenues, even if I don’t want to. I can never just “be”.

What’s worse than not knowing where you stand, is knowing exactly where you stand and not being able to do anything about it. I was under the allusion for a long time that I was made of stone, but after challenging this I learned that it really wasn’t the case. The thing that always got me through the rocky periods was the idea that I was in control of my own happiness. Even when I was feeling down, I was in control and I could fix this. When I let somebody else put a smile on my face and make me laugh, I’d let my guard down; I didn’t know that I’d find it so hard to deal with the consequences.

I had this idea in my head that I’d end up falling in love with the next guy who so much as looked at me. This definitely was not the case, and I’m not sure if it’s a positive or negative thing. Two weeks ago, I had a guy kiss me on the forehead for the first time in a long time. And honestly, all I felt like doing was head-butting him. Sorry. I thought I’d have turned into a huge ball of feelings, when really I’m the opposite, I couldn’t care less. I keep making comparisons and although I want to stop, I can’t.

I’m guessing that people are sick of me talking about this, and that’s why I’ve finally succumbed to writing down my thoughts. I know that writing never helped me to solve my problems, but maybe it can help me accept the solution. This world is alien to me, I’m not used to feeling this way or being in these situations, I don’t know what to do with this. It’s hard to stay friends with somebody you feel something for, when you know that they don’t feel the same way.

I only began to think of this a few days ago when my housemate said to me, “It must be really hard for you to stay friends with him.” That’s the first time I actually stopped and thought, “Yes, this is really difficult.” But when you’re that attracted to somebodies personality, you don’t want to cut ties. So you stop what you were doing before somebody gets hurt and you end up ruining your friendship. I wasn’t meant to be hurting now; believe me, I’m beating myself up over it.

I know that you can’t change somebodies mind about you, or change how they feel about you, and I haven’t tried to. I tried to silently deal with the solution I’m faced with all semester, in the hope that eventually, any thoughts or feelings I had would vanish. They haven’t, and this has been a struggle for me.

You start every week with a “fuck it” attitude, and by two o’clock on Tuesday you’ve gotten a snapchat that makes your face light up. Being greeted with a smile, a hug and a kiss on the cheek shouldn’t affect you, but it does. It’s hard being in the same nightclub as somebody you feel something towards, knowing they’re with somebody else and you’re just, there. It’s just a feeling of inadequacy really, because you know they could have you if they wanted you, but they don’t. There’s nothing you can do, because you’re just friends.

My housemates question the other day really made me wonder why I continued to maintain this friendship when it was so hard for me, and as this semester draws to a close I’m wondering what to do next. In one sense, I’m happy that I’ll be moving to Manchester for a few months. I’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, and focus on other things. I can’t help but wonder if my mind will still be wandering elsewhere though.

There’s a part of me that wants to cut things off completely, but I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work. I could just quit while I’m ahead, but as I said, I’m curious. I always have more questions to the answers I’m provided with, I want to figure out why I invest my time in these things. I can never just “be”.

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So you want to start weightlifting?

I don’t look like the kind of girl who lifts heavy weights, in fact, I probably don’t look like the kind of girl who goes to the gym at all. But – plot twist alert – I make sure I get to the gym four or five times a week. Why? I love weightlifting.

Weight lifting is perfect for those of us who don’t enjoy cardio (so that’s pretty much all of us). I started weight training about seven months ago, and only plucked up the courage to lift heavy weights (squatting, deadlifting etc.) about two months ago. I started because although I’d lost weight through running, my body was… Not looking the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t toned, I had zero muscle, and I still felt kind of like a blob if I’weights1m honest. I followed lots of fitness accounts on Instagram, and all these girls had the bodies I wanted (check out Georgia Hickey for an Irish example, her figure is on point). What did they all have in common? They lifted weights, so I said I’d try it out too.

Although I started using machines like the leg press, I was still afraid to head over to the free weights section of the gym. A lot of the time it’s a male dominated area, and I was really intimidated by it. Even though I’d wanted to learn how to squat for months, I was afraid of trying it out and looking like an idiot. But now that I know what I’m doing on “the other side”, I’m kicking myself for not starting sooner. So for any of you girls thinking about using the free weights section, I’d say to just go for it. Here are my tips for getting started and not feeling like the most awkward person in Europe while doing so.
My first piece of advice is to research before you step foot in the gym. Take note of the exercises you want to do, find out which muscles they help to build up, and learn how to use the machines. My favourite method of research is Youtube, and my workouts come from a compilation of Jen Heward, Robin Gallant and Nikki Blakketter’s videos. I have three workouts planned for myself: legs, arms and shoulders, and back, chest and core. Write a list of the exercises you want to do for each of these groups and bring it to the gym with you; you can always tell that somebody is a beginner if they’re standing around looking confused about what to do next. Your list will keep you focused, and with all your research you’ll know exactly what you’re doing.

Don’t be afraid of what other people think of you. I know that’s easier said than done, and I still worry that I look like an idiot, but I always remind myself of this: when I’m exercising, I’m too focused on myself to notice what anyone else is doing, and this is the same with almost everyone. If someone is looking at you, chances are they’re just trying to figure out how the hweights2ell you’re using that confusing looking machine.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t be embarrassed when you’re finding it difficult to squat with just the barbell at first. And if people are at the gym to stand around staring at others, they’re clearly not there for the right reasons. I’ve dropped weights on my feet and I’ve hit my head off barbells more times than I’d care to admit, but you know what? Who cares! Everyone makes mistakes, so just keep thinking to yourself, “I’m doing this for myself, and I’m going to get strong.” To hell with what other people think.

If you’re still feeling a little intimidated, I’d recommend going to the gym at a quiet time. I’m always the first person in there at ten o’clock on Sunday mornings, because I can head straight to the squat rack and there’s no waiting around. Once you get more confident, it’ll be easier to hit the gym at 4 o’clock on Mondays.

What helped me the most when it came to lifting heavy weights was going into the free weights section with someone who was familiar with it. Although I love hitting the gym by myself, I wouldn’t have had the courage to teach myself how to squat or deadlift. But what if you don’t know anyone who uses the free weights section? Well, I didn’t either. As I said, I followed lots of people on Instagram who had an interest in fitness and weight lifting, so when I noticed that one of them used the gym at UL, I asked him to help. Luckily for me, he was more than happy to show me what I wanted to know and had the patience of a saint when I could barely balance the barbell on my shoulders. It might take two or three times before you’re comfortable going it alone, so don’t be afraid to keep asking for help. weights3

And my final tip is to be consistent. Contrary to belief, weight lifting doesn’t make you bulky without years and years of work. It takes a while for muscle to build up, but it’s so rewarding when you hit new PR’s and can lift heavier weights. Also, unlike cardio, weight lifting helps to speed up your metabolism. Even when you stop exercising, you continue to burn fat all day after a workout. And the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s a win-win situation really.

If any of you have questions about weight training feel free to ask me on Twitter @micwbu. I’m no expert, but I certainly know how scary it can be when you’re a beginner.